THE HEAD CHEERLEADER SLASH QUEEN BITCH OF SCHOOL
This exhaustingly crap old trope is so annoyingly stereotypical it honestly makes my teeth itch every time I see it – which means my teeth itch a lot, because of the following true formula:
1.) Most writers are nerds.
2.) Most nerds hated high school.
3.) Many nerds have not gotten over #2, and most writers-who-are-nerds definitely haven’t.
Thus, when creating an antagonist in a high school setting and feeling lazy, most writers end up channeling their own inner biases and taking it out on whoever they thought had it easier than them in high school, which is almost always the athletes and especially the cheerleaders. (The cheerleaders, far more often than not, come off worse than the athletes do. I leave it to the reader to chart the obvious gender politics inherent in this point.)
And if the cheerleaders in general get the shaft, well, the head cheerleader is especially singled out, like the queen bee of an evil hive. The head cheerleader, by definition in this writerly world, has to be the bitch of bitches, the alpha female, the leader of the vicious pack, et cetera ad infinitum. She’s almost always the worst, most hateful type-A-personality she-devil; almost always amoral, usually slutty (hellooooooo gender politics, again), and on top of that our stereotypical TV/movie head cheerleader, more often than not, is stupid. So not only is she evil and in a position of power, but the inference is that she only got there because she was lucky.
Let’s not kid ourselves: most head cheerleaders will be type-A personalities, that’s an entirely fair characterization. Why? Because cheerleading is difficult and demanding, with relatively little reward. (Yes, there are some full athletic college scholarships available for cheerleaders – but if a female athlete wants an athletic scholarship, statistically she’s better off pursuing swimming or track.) To excel at it requires a lot of determination and commitment, and to captain a team you have to be the sort of person who enjoys command and competition for its own sake.
But cheerleaders aren’t inherently evil. Most of the ones I’ve known in my time, both through my own schooling and through the schools of younger friends and family, were just competitive athletes, usually good students (because, well, they had to be to stay on the team, much less go to college), and perfectly friendly. Heck, outside of the football-crazy portions of southern America the cheerleaders aren’t even necessarily the top of the social pyramid – the “cool girls” subset can just as easily be totally unrelated to cheerleading.
The Head Cheerleader Bitch is a construct. It’s a sexist one to boot, usually existing to contrast feminine sin from womanly virtue: our Good Girl heroine isn’t ANYTHING like Tammy McSlutty who runs the cheerleaders. (This is so prevalent, in fact, that in Bring It On, where the heroine is a cheerleader, the writers felt it necessary to insert not only a head cheerleader who was duplicitious, slutty and kind of scanky, but two ambitious underling cheerleaders trying to backstab the virtuous Kirsten Dunst.)
It needs to be retired. Re-tired! Re-tired! R-E-T-I-R-E-D, that is what it means to me! Oh yeah! Oh yeah!